CAP calls upon the government to ban paraquat, the toxic weed killer. We are concerned to learn that paraquat is being smuggled into the country and it is more toxic as the concentration level of the smuggled weed killer is higher; more than 40 percent.
Paraquat is very toxic by inhalation, toxic in contact with skin and if swallowed. The high toxicity and lack of antidote leads to serious ill health, and death, from exposure. Paraquat is reputed as poison of choice for suicide in the country.
Paraquat is also known for causing severe acute and long-term health problems such as severe dermatitis, kidney failure, respiratory failure, rapid heart rate, second degree burns, skin cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, Paraquat is highly persistent in soil and bound residues are transported in runoff with the sediment, which makes the substance a potential groundwater contaminant.
The Perak Health Committee which has concluded a seminar on paraquat recently has called for a panel to be formed to tackle the issue using a holistic approach.
In August 2002, the Malaysian government announced its intention to ban Paraquat through a two-year phase-out process. The ban was then lifted, presumably due to market forces. Why do the agriculture workers exposed to this toxic herbicide have to suffer the consequences whilst the agro-chemical and agriculture industry continue to prosper?
Many countries including the European Union have already banned paraquat because of its health dangers even when used according to directions. A global phase out may follow if it is listed under the Rotterdam Convention on Prior Informed Consent (PIC). Nevertheless we expect heavy lobbying by the industry to keep the herbicide out of the treaty.
In the meantime Malaysian farmers, smallholders and the plantation companies should be educated as to the dangers of Paraquat and other agro-chemicals. We need to expedite the move towards agro-ecology practices using natural farming methods and biological pest control. Cattle rearing in plantations would assist in weed control.
Considering the serious effects of Paraquat on health and the environment, we strongly recommend that the Malaysian government enforces a total ban on Paraquat and curb the smuggling of this toxic herbicide into this country.
“People and Planet First, Not Profits” should be the modus operandi for a caring government.
Press Release, 13 December 2011